I have not written about hockey in a long time, but this is something that I felt I needed to share with everyone, because it shows there are still athletes out there who serve as class acts, and who want to do good things for their fans. A couple of weeks ago, when the New Jersey Devils were facing the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of the announcers for the Devils remarked that Cory Conacher, a rookie center for the Lightning, is a type 1 diabetic, and how great it was for such a player to reach the NHL. Watching and hearing this, one of the players I coach, a 14-year-old named Jake from Middletown, New Jersey, who also has type 1 diabetes, said how awesome he thought that was, and that it was the first time he had ever heard of a player with the same condition as him actually making the NHL. I have known Jake for several years, and have seen him develop in front of my own eyes. He has a lot of skills and is one of the best players in our league, but coaching him also helped my development, because it served as a wake-up call of sorts to see a player have to keep track of his sugar levels, or maybe even pump insulin in the middle of a game, while on the bench. This might keep most people from playing such an intense sport, but it has not stopped him, and thankfully, did not stop Cory either.
As all the images and stories come in from those in our area affected by Hurricane Sandy, sometimes I wonder, “How many of these people are hockey fans?” In the chaos of trying to rebuild homes and mend fractured lives are people who need some happiness and something to enjoy, an escape, if you will. Hockey could have been there. In a larger sense, I think of the people who all they had to look forward to in their busy lives was what game would be on tonight. Hockey could have been there. I think of all the kids and young hockey players whose only dream is to lift the Stanley Cup above their heads one day. Hockey could have been there. Instead, we have millions of people who have found something else to fill the void with, as the sport of hockey once again has slipped into complete obscurity without so much as a mention. It was always a niche sport but was steadily gaining popularity, just like it was in 1994/95 when the first lockout took a half a season. Every time hockey seems to be on the rise, a dagger is thrust through its heart, dishearteningly enough, by those inside of the organization. What’s that old, famous saying? Something like, “All great civilizations fall from within“? I suppose that quote can apply to a business as well, with the NHL being a grand, tragic example.
Because I swore to not write one post on the NHL lockout last month, hockey has pretty much been invisible on this blog. That is going to change today, because I could not help but pass along these exquisite images of New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, Brad Richards, Brian Boyle, and restricted free agent Michael Del Zotto, as they recently posed for Esquire during their unfortunate elongated period of free time this fall. The images were just released today, so I thank DKC for sending them over to me. Enjoy!
So, here we are yet again, in the midst of yet another NHL Lockout. Are you surprised it got this far? I certainly am not, because if there is one thing we have learned during Gary Bettman’s tenure as commissioner, it is that greed will always win out. I will spare you the sentimental “I want hockey back!” jargon and get straight to the point: I am absolutely appalled and disgusted, not just that there is a lockout, but because both sides would not even meet on deadline day, apparently being so far apart that it would not have mattered. They did not even make a symbolic attempt to at least show us they were working down to the last second. You know what that says? They don’t care. They never have, and they never will, at least not about the people who aren’t raking in the millions and billions like they are. I am going to put the fans aside for a moment and tell you who I really feel sorry for. How about all the arena employees who are barely making $30,000 a year, trying to feed their families, who may have to be let go because of less events? How about all the part-time concessions workers and ushers just happy to have a job? And in smaller cities, what about the nearby restaurants and their owners and workers who depend on crowds coming in before and after 41 home games to fill a large part of their income? Those are the people I am saddened for.
For those who know me, I am not a political kind of guy. But one thing that is debated over is the trickle down theory of economics and whether it is good or bad. Don’t worry…we are not going down that road in the way you might be thinking. I am not going to try and explain what the trickle down theory but here is a definition courtesy of our friends at Wikipedia: ”…the idea that…economic benefits provided by government to businesses and the wealthy will benefit poorer members of society by improving the economy as a whole”.
Hockey fans are trying to distract themselves by talking line combinations, depth charts, and where their favorite teams will finish this coming year. They are talking about trades that will never happen, which coach is on the hot seat, and who their team has in the prospect pipeline. All of this to try to distract themselves from the very real possibility of another lockout in the sport they love. Those who have been paying attention have seen the league present a first proposal and are awaiting response from the NHLPA. With just about a month left to go (September 15 is the deadline) before the collective bargaining agreement expires and the league imposes a lockout on the players, everyone is hoping both sides figure this thing out.
I was not the biggest fan of the recent “Occupy Wall Street” movement, because to me, it was more about lazy people and entitlement than actually working to end corporate greed and unemployment. That said, to not shoot myself in the foot here, that is a generalization based on my own observations. I thought the movement was ridiculous in the sense that nothing anybody could say or do would change how the government operates. The movement was too broad with nothing specific to focus on. Much like the “Tea Party” movement, it started out with a common goal before branching to include many different things, thus lowering its effectiveness. However, if you were to apply the same type of movement to something on a smaller scale, such as an impending National Hockey League lockout, where all fans are united on the same purpose (unless there are fans out there who actually do want another season of hockey lost), then could it work? If a large group of protesting fans, wearing jerseys of all kinds stood outside the league office with signs and showed that they will not tolerate a loss of hockey, would it captivate any of the parties to sit down and try to work this out in a timely manner? I will not get into the specifics of what is being argued, because that would be fruitless and irrelevant—in the end, there is only one thing a fan cares about, and that is being able to watch his or her favorite team and not have to worry if there will be no sound of blades digging into the ice come September and October.
With the New Jersey Devils already being the oldest team in the league (the only team whose average cracks 30), according to reports, it appears that they may be willing to go a little bit older, with a reclamation project of sorts, in signing free agent Alexei Yashin, a player who has actually been a free agent in NHL terms for the last five seasons, as he has been playing in Russia ever since he was bought out by his then-current team, the New York Islanders. Though his play was not terrible, he was accused of not trying his hardest on a perpetually mediocre squad, and because of the buyout, will actually still be receiving payment from the Islanders another next three seasons, to the sum of more than $2 million per year. With the Ottawa Senators earlier in his career, he had put up superstar numbers before leaving for Long Island due to a contract dispute. From there, his totals went nowhere but down, which led to his eventual demise. He is now 37 years old and coming off his worst Russian season since he embarked on the journey in 2007.
It finally happened. The trade that everyone has been waiting for just went down, and that was the New York Rangers acquiring Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first blockbuster of the off-season. There were many guesses as to whether or not it would take an overpayment to get him, but I held fast with Glen Sather saying it would either be a robbery, or he would not be acquired at all. The magician has just completed his latest trick, because the Rangers somehow managed to only send Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon, and a first round pick. The Rangers also received a third round pick and a defenseman back from Columbus. All told, the Rangers still have more than $13 million in cap space, with nearly a full roster, as the only two players awaiting to be re-signed are restricted free agents Anton Stralman and Michael Del Zotto. Glen Sather has put himself in a wonderful position here to acquire more, some believing that Shane Doan will be signed shortly. The Rangers are also expected to pursue a defenseman.
Las Vegas could probably get a betting pool together with odds set on which NHL free agent will be the proverbial domino, as in the one player who signs or gets traded that causes all other players and teams to finally act in the middle of what has been a very stagnant off-season. So far, we have had plenty of single dominoes, but no domino effect. Anyway, at least we finally have some major news to talk about, regarding the other star defenseman on the Nashville Predators, Shea Weber, and the little offer sheet situation he and his team are involved in. Let’s take a look at that, and more, as we go “Around the NHL”…